Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Loose ends

Between the Galway Film Fleadh and having my computer on vacation and me just generally being flaky, a lot of threads of thoughts in my head have fallen aside and not been picked up properly. So this week I am going to attempt to fill in some gaps, add some elaborations and generally just try to fix things I have already written.

  • WALL·E: I can’t believe that in my review of this movie, which referred to so many other movies, I left out the key movie reference. While mentioning its Chaplin and science fiction references, I got so caught up in that train of thought that I omitted the film’s central film reference, which I had started out meaning to focus on primarily. So, for the benefit of anybody who may not have noticed, WALL·E is essentially Pinocchio. Like many, if not most, stories about robots, it is about the puppet, well, machine that wants to be a real boy or at least a human being. The whole point of the story is that WALL·E has somehow become sentient by, of all things, repeatedly watching the 1969 movie Hello, Dolly! If you have any doubt about this, consider that our hero even has his own Jiminy Cricket, well, Cockroach. And he winds up getting swallowed by a whale, in the form of the giant space ship Axiom. And, like Pinocchio, WALL·E has to be figuratively resurrected at the end of the story. There, I’m glad I finally got that off my chest.

  • Hancock: From the moment that I posted my positive review of this movie, I immediately began encountering review after review telling me how terrible this flick is. Normally, I don’t worry too much about “real” critics who disagree with me. Indeed, I only tend to worry when I find myself agreeing too much with the established film reviewers. But there was such a chorus of critics I read and whom I respect who all said that the movie was bad and that the terrible thing about it was a major plot twist that happens in the middle. Personally, I thought the plot twist was great because it totally transformed the story and began answering questions that had been piling up about the Will Smith character from the first few frames. Moreover, I thought the plot turn was great because, it was foreshadowed yet I absolutely did not see it coming. Judging from the audible reaction from the audience I was part of, no one else saw it coming either. Of course, later audiences may have been contaminated since it can be hard to see major movies without having heard spoilers from friends or the media. I cannot help but think that people, having the movie thus spoiled, would find it as enjoyable.

    But professional film critics, who would have seen the movie before anyone else, would not be such people. Anyway, I feel somewhat vindicated because the movie has done so well at the box office—although, if anything makes me more nervous than finding that I agree with professional film critics, it is finding that I agree with mass worldwide audiences. So how did so many highly paid movie critics wind up having the same negative reaction to this movie? One possible explanation is that, at 92 minutes, the film was obviously the object of fair amount of serious editing. That is often a bad sign in terms of how a movie started out or how it wound up. Perhaps there is a bit of laziness involved in which the critics followed the dots to get to the “right” answer rather than do the hard work themselves. Or maybe they liked the relative gritty opening scenes and wrote their own movie in their heads and were disappointed when the filmmakers had the gall to do something different and make their own movie. It beats me. But I still stand behind my first reaction to the movie. I really enjoyed it.

  • Doctor Who: After writing so passionately seven weeks ago about the new BBC series of Doctor Who, I have been feeling that I owe the one or two people who actually care (okay, I’m really talking about myself here) what I thought of the big, long anticipated finale to the fourth series/season, which aired in the UK on July 5 and which, I believe, has since aired on the SciFi Channel in the U.S. Now this will probably not be particularly interesting to those who have not been following the new Doctor Who series. Nor can I imagine that people who hope to see the final episode(s) but who haven’t yet had the chance to will want to read what follows either. So those groups of people are excused. Now that they are gone, I will proceed to converse with myself.

    The main challenge for such a great series, with such a big buildup to the end, is how not to disappoint. And, if the people behind the series try too hard to meet the fans’ expectations, they run the risk of being too predictable. And then, no matter how strong the finish, there is still the inevitable letdown of things stopping after such momentum having been built up. In other words, Russell T. Davies and crew were pretty much damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. In the end, I have to say that they did a pretty good job of fulfilling expectations and still managing a few surprises. The other challenge was just dealing with the unwieldy situation of so many plot threads, so much foreshadowing, so much Dalek damage to undo and so many beloved characters brought together at one time. Many, if not most, did not get the screen time they deserved, but in that sense a special two-part episode like this is a television show’s analogy to a wedding or a surprise birthday party. So many familiar faces, so little time to spend with any of them.

    In the end, the very last episode, Journey’s End, was that rare episode that was actually better on the second viewing. There was so much going on that it was simply easier to follow once we had been through it all once. Speaking for myself, I picked up a lot more detail the second time. And believe me, the details arrived by the container load and faster than a human mind could readily absorb. There was lots of plot action yet still time for small human moments that fans had been hoping for, like when the Doctor and Rose note the similarity between Torchwood regular Gwen Cooper and the tragic 19th century Gwyneth from Doctor Who’s first second-millennium series (both played by Eve Myles). We got our predictable moments (a deus ex machina device defeats the Daleks and puts more than a score of planets back across the universe within mere minutes) and surprising ones (what, no cliffhanger for the next Christmas episode?).

    The biggest challenge was the long-awaited reunion between the Doctor and Rose and how it would be handled. The tension was between a happy resolution and the inevitable fact that the Doctor can never settle down or commit. (He’s a bit like a lot of TV cowboy stars that way.) In the end, the powers that be tried to have it both ways—and that, on the one hand, was not really satisfying and, on the other, a bit too pat. But, once we had time to get used to the idea, we realized that it was not necessarily a closing off of a plot thread but a possibility of new directions at some future point. The other main question for the series was what was going to happen with current companion Donna Noble. The harbingers were not good, but in the end, her fate was tragic enough to mean something but not overly cruel. And the way things go in the Doctor Who universe she could well be back too. And will Mickey and Martha really be joining the depleted Torchwood team?

    For all the threads that were brought together in this finale, there are still others that were left out there dangling. When will we see the Doctor’s daughter Jenny again? And what about the Doctor’s apparent future companion Professor River Song? New showrunner and master time paradox spinner Steven Moffat will definitely have plenty to work with. Now, if we can only stand the wait.

    -S.L., 14 August 2008

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